If you had one shot — one opportunity to seize everything you ever wanted — would you capture it or let it slip? Apologies to Eminem for borrowing the lyrics, but they could just as easily be applied to Charlotte’s Jon Alexander, who chose the Niners in January for his final collegiate season after stops at three previous schools. Now, with the benefit of a final go-around in 2021, Alexander looks to capture the energy that lured him to be a part of Will Healy’s program.
“I really wanted to find a place like Kansas State, but with more hands-on coaching,” Jon said. “I watched the Charlotte/North Texas game and every time someone made a play; I saw this scrawny little dude running down the sideline. I was thinking they had a hype dude or something. We had a hype dude in JUCO. Then I watched the UTEP game, and every time someone made a play, there goes the same scrawny dude. He just kept running out, I was like ‘who is this dude’? I asked the DC coach Cooper who it was. He was like “Oh, that’s the head coach”, I was like ‘WHAT?’. I was thinking he was putting on a front for the fans or for the recruits, but no. My first day up here, he got to clapping and bringing all that energy. It’s crazy, he is like that every day. I was just thinking, to play for a coach like that in my last year would be unbelievable.”
The Fort Worth, Texas native was a three-star prospect coming out of Tremble Tech and was the only player to sign from his high school. Jon started his career at Garden City Junior College, but with the coaching carousel in full effect, elected to return home to Texas after one season. He landed at Kilgore J.C., which has helped produce 20 NFL players, the most notable being current Philadelphia Eagles Offensive Lineman Lane Johnson.
Under Coach J.J. Eckert, Alexander played both safety and corner for the Rangers and was ranked as the 14th best JUCO safety in the country (247 Sports). One year and a conference championship later, he was back on the market looking for a Division I opportunity.
Jon’s ability to make impact plays warranted Big 12 attention as Kansas State landed him for the 2019 season. In the season opener, Alexander recorded three tackles and a forced fumble returned for a touchdown, making an immediate name for himself with the Wildcats. He saw action in all 12 games, recorded 25 tackles, two tackles for loss, two pass break ups, a sack and a blocked punt. His best individual performance of the season came on the road against Texas where he recorded four tackles and a sack.
He opted out of the 2020 season after testing positive for COVID-19 and elected to explore the transfer portal for his senior year.
“I needed to refocus. I spent a lot of time getting closer to God and trying to find my ‘why’, Alexander said. “For a long time it was just for the fans, but now I do it for my family, they are the most important thing in my life.”
With official and unofficial visits off the table, Alexander picked the Queen City, a city he had never been to, on a team without another Texas native.
As a 6-3, 218-pound defensive back with a 4.4 40-yard dash, Alexander has the physical tools to play at the next level. He has the range to stretch the field and can play any position in the secondary. Jon’s playmaking ability will help fill the void of the program’s leading tackler and current Los Angeles Charger, Ben DeLuca. He has been coined as the “best player in the secondary” by a teammate and must be a leader in a defensive unit with so many new faces.
While we’ve only seen his impact through the spring session, Alexander has displayed the ability to read the quarterback’s eyes and the awareness to make a game-changing play, resulting in an early interception of Texas A&M transfer James Foster in the spring game.
The energy that Jon brings to the table is a perfect fit for Will Healy’s culture, which is ultimately what helped him find home. Matching the athletes’ energy and providing a top-notch student experience is the main goal for Healy and his staff. While 2020 was incredibly challenging, 2021 is off to a much different start as the 49ers’ spring and summer sessions are culminating in a tight-knit ball club.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been to a school with zero Hollywood people. Like someone who is just too good at football or too cool to speak to a janitor or someone. Everybody up here is a zero. It doesn’t matter how many plays they make; it doesn’t matter who they are, everybody is a zero. I haven’t seen one person come to a workout and just leave. All of us talk to somebody whether it’s the equipment staff, media, a coach, somebody. It’s crazy, this school is really like a dream. This is what I thought Division I football would be. Not just work and go home.”
I sat down with Alexander last week.
Talk to me about your story going from high school, experiencing two JUCO’s, to landing with Kansas State.
It was a blessing being the only one signing out of my high school. I signed to AM Commerce originally, but I really just changed my mind. They won the national championship that year. I was proud. I knew I wanted better than DII, so I chose the JUCO route. I went to Garden City in West Kansas. I liked it, but there were some coaching changes so I went back home where I was comfortable. I originally planned to just go home and chill, but Kilgore hit me up and everything went uphill from there. I was unranked when I got there and ended up as the number one safety in the country by the end of that spring.
I played corner the entire season because four of our corners tore their ACL. I chose Kansas State coming out because I really liked the environment. Especially the fans. I miss the fans, their fans were crazy. From the beginning of the game, I knew I had to dedicate my time to the fans.
What is the talent difference from P5 to G5?
There is none. It’s just football. I went the JUCO route and honestly, it’s a no-brainer for me that JUCO is the best football. Not everyone goes Division I. The best players I have ever seen and played against came through JUCO for real.
Besides yourself, who is someone to watch on the defensive side of the ball this season?
It’s gotta be me. I’m going to bring that playmaking ability to the defense. We are going to play with that energy and the turnovers will come. That’s why people call me Catchaplay J. I’m always making plays.
There are a ton of new faces on this defense, who are a couple of guys who are primed to step up in 2021?
Geovante Howard and Derek Boykins. I played with Geo at Kilgore and he’s a dawg. He has really shown out in 7 on 7’s. And Boykins, Boykins is a monster. His normal spot is the Mike linebacker, but he’s been playing out of position. He’s not a drill guy. He’s not a 7 on 7 guy. He’s a football player. It’s third down and you need a stop, put him in the game. I’m really excited about our defense this season.
Watching the Duke game back from 2020, there are really only two guys that will be on the field this time around - Tyler Murray and Markees Watts. Charlotte had a bunch of good players last season but just weren’t making plays that night. This year will be different.
Who is the X-factor on this offense?
Victor Tucker. He can play inside or out and has that playmaking ability. He asked me if he should switch to numbers from nine to one during the offseason, and I was like, “Oh yeah, they’ll know number one is making plays on both sides of the ball.”
Lastly, what is your main goal for the season?
Ben DeLuca was one of the first guys I talked to about Charlotte. He told me he wanted to win a conference championship bad. I want to do just that in my last season at Charlotte. I think we can be the best team in the conference no doubt.